Writing Past the Professor

It’s late. You’ve been at it for hours. You got the assignment weeks ago. On this one you didn’t procrastinate. You started compiling notes. Now you’ve now been writing for hours. You look at the clock on the computer screen you’ve been staring at. Is that what time it is? It was easy to lose track about something you cared about. Finally after reading and rereading you’re done. Your logic is on point. Even the bibliography looks flawless. There’s no way you’re going to loose any points on this thing.

You turn it in.

A few days later you get your grade. A+. Congratulations!

And then a few moments later you’ve got a knot in your stomach. You thought the A+ was what you wanted, but now you realize that it’s just the nail in the coffin, and your paper is dead.

No one will ever read it again.

By the time the professor finished grading you wonder if she even remembered your third point. The one that really sold your thesis. You found it life changing and now that you’ve got your grade you know your insight wont be changing any more lives. Reality is a difficult weight to bear.

Of course just because this is a story you’ve probably lived with doesn’t mean it has to be a story you keep on living with. You’re the author of your own destiny. So change it. Take ownership and hack your school experience. Instead of using your professors as the final step in the life of your work use them as an editing service and take your work beyond school. Give someone else a chance to read what you found so helpful.

The easiest way to start this is with a blog. Squarespace.com and other hosting services offer student discounts. I don’t want you thinking that this is the road to popularity and self sustaining income, but it does give you a place to post your thoughts and give them a chance at another life. This small blog averages a few readers a day, but it really does much more for letting me practice my communication skills. Those skills are part of what helps me earn a paycheck. As they get better, the jobs I do get easier and it’s easier for my teams to do better as well.

If you’re confident about your work submit it to another site for their consideration or be really bold and submit it to an academic journal. This part could feel like a bit of a mine field, but with some effort you should be able to find an outlet for your thoughts. I’ve gotten lots of rejection. It hurts, but it’s part of the process. Keep going. Keep going. Keep going.

There are two reasons for doing all of this. One is taking charge of your brand. YOU! You are a brand.

There are several popular reality TV shows who’s popularity is solely based on the ability of the people being filmed to manage their branding. You can do the same. You don’t need your blog to be popular. In fact you only need one person ever to read it. That’s the person that is going to hire you. You’re going to get googled. When that happens what are they going to find? You can take charge of the answer to that question by putting some of your well constructed thoughts onto the internet.

The second reason I do this is because when I write beyond the professor I write better. I’m more passionate about my subject. I research more. I work harder. It’s paying off. My posts now appear fairly regularly at FreedomPenguin.com and I’ve even had an article published at OpenSource.com. I’m also getting better grades than I’ve ever gotten in my life. I use a professor’s comments not as the final word, but as the last round of editing prior to publication. By the way, they happen to be good at giving constructive feedback. Isn’t that what you’re paying them for?

You don’t have to live with giving life to great thoughts only to watch them die when a grade gets attached. Don’t let your grade be a nail in the coffin. Let it be the feedback right before publishing. Let it be a launchpad for something great. Otherwise you’ll be stuck asking yourself why you put in so much effort in the first place.

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